Entice, Engage, Educate
An award-winning installation encouraging the public to learn about bats
Basic project info
Novel IoT data streams offer a unique opportunity to engage the public by sharing new insights not available before. The question is—how to best serve such information to educate, engage and evoke public discussion? In this MSc project, I explored the use of tangible interfaces.
A novel multi-modal physical device is designed to present and enhance a newly available IoT dataset of bat activity from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. An in-the-wild evaluation indicates that such physical device can be successful in engaging the public even on a topic in which people may not already have an interest.
|My role||Lead Researcher & Designer|
|Platform||Arduino, UpBoard (Intel), Interactive physical device, IoT, Processing|
|Industry||Education, Public engagement|
|Period||Jun 2017 – Sep 2017|
|Contract||MSc Project (UCL, Human-Computer Interaction)|
The project has been awarded:
- 1st place in UX UK Awards 2017 (Best Student Project)
- Ulf Aberg Award 2018 runner-up (Best postgraduate student projects in ergonomics/human factors)
- UCL MSc HCI Project Prize 2016/2017
- The highest rank distinction (exceptional performance)
It was also presented at the Leading London conference 2017, showcased at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and featured in a number of UCL and Intel events.
Urbanisation negatively impacts wildlife by increasing pollution levels and by causing landscape fragmentation and habitat loss. There are growing movements to better monitor and understand wildlife in urban areas to foster and support effective conservation. Most recently, a novel wildlife data set has become available in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London (QEOP) where the activity of bats is now being monitored across urban spaces. Echo Box—an IoT device developed by Intel and UCL scientists—is able to automatically recognise and categorise bat calls; fifteen Echo Boxes were deployed in QEOP in June 2017
- 1 in 5 people in the UK dislike or hate bats
- The dislike is primarily caused by a number of misconceptions that people have, knowledge gaps that surround these species, and aesthetics—as bats are perceived as “ugly”
- Collectively, these make educational efforts in this area difficult as a large proportion are either apathetic towards or have a preconceived dislike of bats
- Bats are, however, an essential biodiversity indicator species and they are also important pest controllers; they are legally protected since 1981
Could the new stream of bat data from QEOP be used to support bat conservation by raising the agenda to public view?
- Inform and educate the public about bats
- Remedy myths and misconceptions
- Raise awareness about the benefits of bats
- Raise awareness about the benefits of existing conservation efforts
This was an individual MSc project—I designed, programmed and developed the whole device, and ran an evaluation study. The project was supervised by Yvonne Rogers (UCL Interaction Centre) and Sarah Gallacher (Intel).
Teenagers to ~34 years-old, Living in a large city
People at this age range were found to be most prone to believing in myths about bats, knew the least about the benefits of bats, and largely did not know bats were protected in the UK. A subgroup of 18-24 year-olds was also found to be most afraid of bats (60% of 18-24 year-olds).
Evaluation: In-the-wild study
- The device was deployed in Timber Lodge Café in QEOP for 3 days
- 232 people used the device in 127 interactions
- 158 sessions were logged and analysed
- 28 intercept interviews were conducted
- The device was in direct use for nearly half of the deployment time
- Half of the sessions lasted 2:00+ minutes showing high engagement
- Embedded survey shows that many people shifted their perception of bats
Quotes from participants
“You don’t realise that there would be that many animals in the park, especially when it’s kind of artificially constructed here, so yeah that was quite eye-opening actually,” (I045).
“We really learnt a lot about bats, hearing them and touching the models, then having the quizzes, it was just really excellent […] I actually didn’t like bats too much but now I quite like them,” (I023).
The bat arcade machine is a fully functional prototype that was deployed in various locations in London, UK.
How the device works
The device is designed to evoke intrinsic motivation to explore and learn more. It also motivates externally by offering a “little surprise” (pin badges) if the user finishes the experience. There are six main topics (story units), each of them engages different sensory modalities:
- Listen to bats in the Park
Shows a bat sensor and lets people listen to what the sensor can hear
- See how bats move around the Park
Engages people with the IoT data (QEOP map)
- Bust myths about bats
Remedies the most common myths
- The benefits of bats you didn’t know about
Shows why bats are important
- Meet the most common UK bat
Lets people hear it and touch it
- Two reasons why bats are endangered in London
Engages people with the conservation topic
Have a look at the bat arcade machine in action!
This project’s results and the largely positive user feedback have shown that engagement and willingness to learn about topics in which people may not have an interest can be facilitated by using multi-modal and playful narratives embedded into physical devices. This differs substantially from the current UX trends in which websites and apps have become the industry standard and the benefits of physicality have been largely forgotten.
“The project is outstanding – so much effort and thought gone into all stages of the project. It is almost the making of a PhD. So many designs, evaluations and a good degree of conceptual and technical development. The write-up is also mature and all the steps make sense and are well put together. Not least, over 70 figures and over 70 references – all used appropriately is truly remarkable.”